The heat of the Beijing dog purge (read our previous report here) in June is cooling down as July takes over. To answer the many unanswered questions about this sad development, sino-us.com talked to Cai Chunhong (蔡春红, Weibo: @动保海之梦-抵制南航直至道歉) in a telephone interview, a well-known and widely respected animal rights activist and volunteer legal advisor in Beijing’s animal rescue circle, who is also the founder of Angel Animal Aid, Beijing (@天使动保志愿者团队).
The Weibo account of Angel Animal Aid, which is now run by a team of volunteers. Photo: weibo.com
Ms. Cai recently sat down with the Beijing police on behalf of the animal rights activists who petitioned to organize a demonstration against the Beijing Police’s intense dog purge. The police cited “growing public resentment” when explaining the purge. Hot summer weather makes many dogs irritable and aggressive, which aggravated the dog haters.
According to Cai, the conflict between dog lovers and the dog haters is irreconcilable. Dog lovers are generally more open-minded and accept dogs as friend and family, which is a western idea. People on the opposing side, however, are ingrained with the Chinese traditional view which treats dogs simply as guards, hunting tool, and meat source.
However, Cai pointed out that there is an underlying reason for the police’s large-scale dog confiscation. May and June are the two designated months for the dog owners to register their dogs. Due to the fact that the registration does not bring any benefit and service to the dog owners, many are reluctant to hand in the money for their dog’s certificate. By taking the unregistered dogs away, the police could force their owners to pay for the certificate and thus meet their quota.
The police refused to reveal the exact number of dogs that are confiscated and eventually “dealt with” each year. Nor were they willing to divulge what happened to the unwanted dogs. As an experienced animal rescuer and a professional lawyer, Cai made a number of suggestions to the Beijing police on behalf of the animal activists, such as adopting pet chips and a more humane approach of dealing with the dogs so that they could have more chances to be adopted and alive.
A collage of the animals helped by Angel Animal Aid. Photo: weibo.com
Most importantly, Cai pointed out that Beijing’s current 10-year-old legislation on dog keeping is not only out-of-date, it is also riddled with defects which is why the dog problem in Beijing persists despite repeated efforts from all sides to address it. Problems such as the unscientific rules on the size and breed of the dogs allowed in the city of Beijing have to be rectified for the law to make sense.
As for a law on companion animal protection which the animal rights activists have been clamoring for, Cai was not optimistic of it being passed in China in the near future. “We (animal rights activists) are after all a minority group with a relatively small voice,” she admitted. “The passage of a law has to be supported by strong public demand which is lacking in China in this case. In addition, China is at a transitional period in its development and faces problems of more significance than that of animal rights.”
Cai, who used to be an animal rescuer herself, knew all too well the difficulties and hardships the fellow rescuers have to endure. “It was too hard. So I decided to do it in another way: by offering help to those rescuers who are continuing with the hard and emotionally-draining work.” Together with her volunteer friends, she founded Angel Animal Aid, a charity organization that collects funds and donations to support the rescuers and the animals they save.
The dog Wheat. Photo: weibo.com
Knowing that sterilization is the first step towards resolving the stray animal problem, Cai launched her “Wheat Project” (麦子计划, named after its first beneficiary, a black and white stray dog who is now with a happy family. ) which aims to help pay for the sterilization fees for the rescued animals with the fund raised by Angel Animal Aid. In three years, the projects have helped hundreds of dogs and cats.
“I am very much enjoying my work helping the rescuers who are all wonderful people.” Cai said. “And I hope one day I could have a team of lawyers who could join me in providing legal advice to them, vulnerable and unprotected under China’s current legal system.”